S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley is embroiled in yet another ethics scandal – one reeking of preferential treatment from an ethics agency whose governing board she can dismiss at any time, for any reason.
The “Republican” governor – who has already relied on a political whitewash to resolve one major ethics scandal – repeatedly hid, delayed and sought to dismiss serious campaign finance allegations against her. Meanwhile the agency responsible for probing these violations – the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) – repeatedly acquiesced to Haley’s demands.
In fact according to an expansive report filed by Adam Beam of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper, the agency’s director sent a message to Haley’s attorneys telling them “we can put this to bed quickly.” The director also repeatedly provided Haley with advice on how she could best resolve the violations in a manner that would prevent anyone from “accusing her of being hypocritical.”
Welcome to South Carolina, people.
We’ve been following this story for months, so here’s some background: In April 2011, FITS reported on the fact that Haley failed to provide required occupational data for more than two-thirds of her high-dollar campaign donors – many of whom she appointed to key posts in her administration as well as various state boards and commissions. A year later, we reported that the SCSEC was investigating these violations – specifically whether Haley failed to maintain adequate records and to disclose information required by state law.
“A formal hearing into these allegations has been scheduled for July 18 – although it remains to be seen whether Haley will permit this meeting to be conducted in public,” we wrote at the time.
Well guess what … the SCSEC cancelled the hearing, and launched into what The State is now referring to as months of “secret negotiations” with the governor’s attorneys.
Ah, more “transparency inaction” from Haley.
Why did the governor receive preferential treatment from the SCSEC? That’s easy: As we exclusively reported last month, eight of the nine seats on the commission are either vacant or filled by a member whose term has expired.
“By leaving these seats unfilled, Haley gets to exercise complete control over the existing appointments,” we wrote. “They are serving at her whim, in other words – which is a recipe for all sorts of corruption.”
This latest scandal is one of numerous ethical lapses on Haley’s part since she took office in 2011 on a platform of “transparency” and “accountability.” It also comes as Haley has been chiding lawmakers for their insufficient commitment to her watered-down ethics reform bill.
When Haley unveiled her ethics reform proposals last August, we had to laugh … after all, her plan proposed doing away with many of the loopholes she has habitually exploited over the years in order to maintain and expand her political power.
Haley proposed income disclosure for lawmakers – even though she failed to disclose more than $40,000 she received from a company doing business before the state. She proposed consolidating ethics cases under an independent agency – even though she relied on a corrupt committee of her former peers to evade conviction on a wide range of ethics charges last summer. She pushed for mandatory recusals from office – even though she failed to recuse herself from votes benefiting her secret employer. She demanded reforms to the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – even though her administration has illegally deleted emails and deliberately withheld public information from reporters. And she asked lawmakers to correct a flawed election law that resulted in hundreds of candidates being booted from the 2012 ballot – even though she co-authored the statute with her longtime ally, S.C. Rep. Nathan Ballentine.
Of course Haley’s personal hypocrisy on this issue is only part of the problem … despite her promises to reform state government, South Carolina remains one of the most corrupt, secretive governments in America under her rule.